Smith remembered for work at papers

Newspapers were characterized in the past as tough, plainspoken and fair women and men who had the heart of their community in their heart.

The world of newspapers lost one of those kinds of editors last week with the death of James C. Smith of Parkersburg, a former editor of the Herald-Star in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Smith was recalled by many for his cowboy boots and a demeanor that seemed to fit them. His work stretched across Ohio from Delaware and Piqua to Columbus to Steubenville and East Liverpool, to New Iberia, La., and finally to Parkersburg-Marietta.

But that demeanor may have masked something subtle to the public that journalists who worked with Smith over the years should have picked up: Stories are uncovered by asking questions and letting the facts take the reporter, and hence the readers, to the conclusion. They are not created by having a hypothesis that facts need to be bent to fit.

And that is what makes a great editor, one who is able to teach cadres of journalists in so many places just how to ply the craft in a way that shows care for subjects, interviewees and communities.

It’s not to say that there weren’t tough stories and tough answers to find, but Smith made sure the facts fell where they had to. Indeed, reporters who worked for Smith over the years know that the first draft never answered all the questions he had in his head when situations arose in the community. And they also know they’d have to go get those answers.

Those who knew him in Steubenville remember him as active in many community organizations, from Steel Valley Transit to the Lions Club to the Masonic Temple. Those activities only serve to exemplify the community spirit Smith developed for all the places he worked during his 42-year career.

He was a proud father and husband and he is remembered in places where he hasn’t worked in years.

That says much for a man and a reporter and editor.

May he rest in peace.